DIG THIS | Gardeners can be Beach Watchers too

The WSU Kitsap Extension Master Gardener’s program is again seeking applicants for the year. But there’s another WSU Kitsap Extension volunteer education program that also begins this coming month.

The WSU Extension Beach Watcher Program (a partnership with WSU Kitsap Extension and Washington Sea Grant) is for those who may be interested in learning how to protect and preserve a favorite beach; are concerned about development and its impact on our natural resources; want to learn about the geology and biology of our Kitsap Peninsula; are interested in surrounding themselves with new people who share a love of nature; or those simply wishing to find a new way to give something back.

The original WSU Extension Beach Watcher Program began in Island County (Whidbey Island) 20 years ago. It was modeled after the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program in which volunteers complete nearly 100 hours of education and then, over the next two years, complete an additional 100 hours of giving back and sharing what they’ve learned in their communities.

You may have recently seen the commercials saying “Puget Sound Starts Here.” Or you may have received a letter or notice of the Shoreline Management Plan meetings being held throughout the county. But, did you know that our county alone includes nearly 300 plus miles of shoreline? And that doesn’t even count all the miles along our streams and lakes in the county.

We are blessed (for lack of better words) to live here, in possibly one of the most beautiful places in the world — or at least the United States.

If you’re a gardener, or spend any time outdoors, you are already connected to the earth. Many gardeners say they feel more connected to the land when they’re out in their gardens. As a gardener, you get your hands dirty; you watch the seasons pass and the plants evolve, grow, mature and become the food for the next generation of plants to follow.

Also, as a gardener, you realize that not only are the land and the plants important, but also the water that flows onto, over and through this place we call home.

Did you know that water makes a complete cycle? The rain falls from the sky, the plants absorb some of it into their foliage and roots and some flows into the streams and other bodies of water, but, ultimately, it all returns to the atmosphere and the cycle starts over again.

It’s all connected and part of our cycle of life here in Kitsap County.

If you’d like to know more about how the cycle works, how the land, sea and sky are connected and how the plants, people and creatures all interconnect and what we can all do to appreciate and take care of our small part of the universe, then the WSU Kitsap Extension Beach Watcher Program may be for you.

Part I of the three-part Beach Watcher Program begins at from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23 — it’s a five-week course and the cost is $40 per person for materials.

Part II (the marine environment and marine life) and Part III (Native Plants, Riparian and Shoreline Zones) will be offered in spring and summer 2010. The deadline for signing up is Oct. 16 to allow time to get all the course materials copied, readied and assembled for class attendees. Contact me at (360) 337-7224 or for an application and course outline.

While the training isn’t free, it’s a terrific deal that works two ways. In return for this unique educational opportunity, all new Beach Watchers agree to commit to 50 hours of volunteer community outreach for two consecutive years.

There are many ways to fulfill the time commitment and the hours add up quickly. It is fun, it is easy, and we can help tailor your service to your talents, interests and comfort level. Some volunteers participate in intertidal monitoring of beaches.

Others speak at schools and community meetings, lead beach walks, give nature talks or troll the shorelines for trash and noxious weeds.

MASTER GARDENER APPLICATIONS will be sent out via email on Oct. 15, group interviews and orientation is set for Nov. 12. E-mail your name, address, email address and phone number to to receive an application. And for more info about the program check out the WSU Extension Master Gardener website at

For more on the WSU Extension Beach Watcher Program, contact Peg Tillery at or by calling (360) 337-7224

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